Team Ninja appears to have gone rogue during the EVO Japan 2019 presentation

Posted by Jonathan 'Catalyst' Grey • February 15, 2019 at 7:23 p.m. PST

When Team Ninja took the stage at EVO Japan 2019 to showcase Dead or Alive 6, it's highly unlikely the EVO Japan staff knew the full extent what was about to happen.

Team Ninja was allotted some main stage time to showcase Dead or Alive 6 at EVO Japan 2019 this week. During this time they put on a gameplay presentation hosted by Japanese gravure idols Yuka Kuramochi and Saki Yoshida, as well as director and producer, Yohei Shimbori.

Instead of playing in a traditional manner, Shimbori manipulated characters into various sexual poses, paused the game and used the free roam camera to zoom in on characters' private parts while Kuramochi and Yoshida observed, commented and even spent some time jiggling their own breasts and spanking one another.

After a few minutes of this, the EVO Japan team decided to cut the live stream feed for the English broadcast and end the presentation early. Head organizer Joey "Mr. Wizard" Cuellar followed up with a since-deleted tweet stating that "the DOA ad that aired on our stream does not reflect the core values of EVO or the FGC. We ended the stream to protect the integrity of our brand."

EVO's Head of Business Development, Mark "MarkMan" Julio, further apologized on the live stream once it was booted back up, indicating a clear disconnect between what EVO organizers and Team Ninja were expecting during the latter's stage time. The looks on both his and commentator Steve "Tasty Steve" Scott's faces further indicated they were not prepared for the carnal display that had just taken place.

With lewdness being such a hot topic when it comes to the Dead or Alive franchise, it seems producers may be aiming more for shock and surprise as opposed to being straightforward with their intentions as we've been getting very mixed signals from the team for quite some time now.

While unequivocally regarded as a complete fighting game experience by fans, DOA development company, Team Ninja, has unapologetically used sexual visuals to the extent that they've become a significant part of the franchise's identity. While a simple viewing of most any DOA title is ample enough to drive this point home, skeptics needn't look any further than the Xtreme Beach Volleyball spinoff titles.

Rewind to just after Team Ninja first presented Dead or Alive 6 back in June of 2018, when Shimbori discussed the new direction the sixth installment would be taking.

"We wanted to make a more cool and mature Dead or Alive this time, and to that end we made a conscious decision to make the characters less sexualized," Shimbori stated. A common thread in developer commentary during this time indicated a movement toward realism and seemingly therefore an implied movement away from over the top sexuality.

This led to further community discussion as fans speculated as to what "less sexualized" more precisely meant, and the highly emphasized jiggle physics that have long accentuated female characters' breasts in past entries was at the forefront of said discussion. Team Ninja followed up to address this directly about a week later.

"We got a lot of comments about the jiggle and the bounce, but to be honest with you, that’s something that is part of the genes of the DOA series, so it’s not gone entirely. We’ve taken an approach where it’s more realistic and natural. We just wanted to clarify that. It’s not how people think of it. It’s just toned down," said Shimbori.

The idea that developers might be changing gears a bit was intriguing, but not entirely convincing to all. Looking back to the Dead or Alive 5 chapter in the timeline, we again see diction implying a movement toward realism that seems to imply a movement away from overt sexuality.

"We've always had the sex factor in the game; in the past, the female characters had to have big breasts, they had to have scanty dress. In DOA5 especially, we're trying to focus on the real women that surround us; the voice of a female, the mannerisms. We are being realistic about it," explained Team Ninja's Yosuke Hayashi back in 2012.

"We want to show something that's more high class, that adult males of our generation could look at a woman [character] and be impressed with her as a woman, not just as a pin-up. That's what we wanted to tell our fans"

Indeed a little over half a year later, after fans were able to play and give feedback on the DOA5 demo, Shimbori told Gamasutra the following:

"We actually got a lot of feedback from people who were playing it, saying, 'We want bigger breasts. Make the characters more like that.' That was kind of surprising. There's definitely still room for having sexualized aspects." Here are a few examples of the costumes that were available in Dead or Alive 5.

Sexy outfits in Dead or Alive 5 image #1 Sexy outfits in Dead or Alive 5 image #2 Sexy outfits in Dead or Alive 5 image #3
Click images for larger versions

After revealing some mouse pads that emphasize character breasts and butts in September, (players that order the $232 "Strongest Package" version of DOA6 will get these) we continue on to January of this year when Shimbori granted an interview with Kayane.

In said interview Shimbori stated, "In an interview that was published, they said that I say the game would be less sexy in consideration of the female players, which is totally wrong, because we know that female players in the DOA fan base like to play strong and sexy women... coming back to the 'sexiness' of the game, it’s on the same level as DOA5."

Today (February 15th) was originally supposed to be the release date for the sixth numbered entry into the Dead or Alive series, but Team Ninja announced in early January that they'd need a bit more time for "further polish," and proceeded to tell consumers that the action wouldn't officially be starting until March 1st.

It's not entirely unfair to speculate that Team Ninja's decisions to go a bit rogue with their stage time was part of an effort to drum up discussion and publicity for Dead or Alive 6 during these last few weeks before release — and it appears to have worked.

In any case, the development company's statements about their upcoming title have proven contradictory, and the presentation they put on on the eve of their original release date placed Dead or Alive 6 directly in a sexual light.

It's common practice to have developers use the EVO platform for reveals and showcases. EVO 2018 was held in Las Vegas last August, and Arc System Works announced new DLC content for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle as well as the ArcRevo World Tour. Bandai Namco presented upcoming content for Tekken 7, Dragon Ball FighterZ and Soul Calibur 6 while Nintendo announced an upcoming Nintendo Direct concerning Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Capcom also revealed the two final DLC characters for Street Fighter 5's third season.

Thursday night's live stream showed that there seemed to be a level of disconnect here between the EVO Japan staff and Team Ninja in terms of what the latter's presentation would entail.

We have reached out to both MarkMan and Team Ninja for further comment on the aforementioned EVO Japan happenings, specifically about the level of communication between them about what Team Ninja would be showing during their stage time. We have yet to hear back from either party.

Editor's note: Contributions to this story were made by Steven "Dreamking" Chavez.

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